Steampunk

I’m coming late to this party.  Yes, I’ve seen the movies and watched some of the TV shows.  But overall, the concept of steampunk is fairly new to me.

I do recall hearing the term many years ago, and I had a vague sense of what it encompassed.  It’s only recently, however, that I’ve become interested in learning more about the genre of steampunk.  But you know when a topic becomes part of mainstream movies that it’s taken hold in Hollywood.

Now some of you might be asking what the heck steampunk is.  As I understand, it’s a story that takes place in a society where steam is a main power source.  Usually that setting is Victorian era in the U.K. or the Old Western era of the U.S., but it could be in an entirely different fantasy world.  The Industrial Age is getting a foothold, but electricity isn’t commonly used.  The setting might also be an alternate history.  In any case, science is rapidly advancing and this is reflected in the creation of machines we might recognize today – only they’re different.  They are machines that we consider modern, yet they are created in Victorian times using available materials and steam power.

The genre has been a part of science fiction and fantasy literature for many years now, with some early examples going back to the 1960s.  The style has been influenced by the writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.  Even a particular television series from the 60s – The Wild Wild West – was an influence in what the culture has become.

As I mentioned, it’s a genre that is getting more widespread attention than you might realize.  CBS Sunday Morning recently did a story on a steampunk convention, with attendees wearing Victorian-style clothing, but with accessories such as goggles or ray guns or pocket watches.  Steampunk culture was an important clue in an episode of Castle.  The new motion picture Hugo has many of the elements of steampunk.  And, of course, those elements have been a part of other very popular movies.
 

                                                                                                              

I have seen most of these films, without being aware of their including elements of steampunk.  And although they aren’t listed as steampunk, I’d be tempted to include The Rocketeer and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow as having those elements, too.  But now I’m interested in the literature, which is totally new to me.  So steampunk fans, what book would you recommend to someone new to the genre?